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E05074: Evagrius Scholasticus in his Ecclesiastical History recounts episodes from the life of *Symeon (ascetic and Holy Fool at Emesa in Phoenicia, ob. c. 570, S01636). Written in Greek at Antioch (Syria), 593/594.

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posted on 13.02.2018, 00:00 by erizos
Evagrius Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, 4.34

Γέγονε δὲ καὶ ἀνὰ τὴν Ἔμεσαν Συμεώνης, ἀνὴρ οὕτως τὸν τῆς κενοδοξίας ἀποδυσάμενος χιτῶνα ὡς καὶ παράφορον τοῖς οὐκ εἰδόσι δόξαι αὐτὸν εἶναι, καίτοι γε πάσης σοφίας θείας καὶ χάριτος ἐμπεπλησμένον. Οὗτος ὁ Συμεώνης τὰ πολλὰ μὲν αὐτὸς καθ’ ἑαυτὸν διῃτᾶτο, οὐδενὶ τὸ παράπαν ἄδειαν ἐνδιδοὺς εἰδέναι πότε τε ἢ ὅπως τὸ θεῖον ἱλάσκετο, μηδὲ ὅτε τὰς ἀφέξεις ἢ μεθέξεις καθ’ ἑαυτὸν τῶν τροφῶν ποιοῖτο ἄν. Ἔστιν δὲ οὗ καὶ κατὰ τὰς λεωφόρους ἀγοράζων ἐκτετράφθαι τοῦ καθεστῶτος ἐδόκει καὶ μηδὲν φρενῆρες ἢ ἀγχίνουν ἔχειν ὅλως· καί που καὶ καπηλείῳ παρεισδὺς ἐκ τῶν προστυχόντων ἐδεσμάτων ἢ σιτίων ἤσθιεν ὅτε πεινῴη. Εἰ δέ τις ἐγκλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτῷ προσεκύνησε, μετὰ θυμοῦ καὶ τάχους τῶν τόπων ἐξίστατο, τὸ πρὸς πολλῶν φωραθῆναι τὴν οἰκείαν ἀρετὴν δεδιώς.

Καὶ τοιαῦτα μὲν τὰ κατὰ τὴν ἀγορὰν τῷ Συμεώνῃ. Ἦσαν δὲ αὐτῷ τινες συνήθεις οἷς καὶ παρενέβαλλεν, οὐδὲν ὅλως ὑποκρινόμενος. Τῶν τοίνυν συνήθων αὐτῷ ἦν τινι θεράπαινα, ἢ πρός τινος ἐκπορνευθεῖσα καὶ κυοῦσα, ἐπειδὴ τὸν τοῦτο δεδρακότα παρὰ τῶν δεσποτῶν ἐξειπεῖν ἠναγκάζετο, τὸν Συμεώνην ἔλεγεν σκοτίως αὐτῇ συμπλακῆναι, ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ τε κυοφορεῖν, καὶ ὀμεῖσθαι ἦ μὴν ταῦτα οὕτως ἔχειν, εἰ δέοι δὲ καὶ διελέγχειν. Ὅπερ ἐπειδὴ ὁ Συμεώνης ἠκηκόει, συνετίθετο, σάρκα φορεῖν εἰπὼν τὸ εὐόλισθον χρῆμα. Ἐπειδὴ δὲ παρὰ πᾶσι τοῦτο τεθρύλητο, καὶ πολλὴν ὦφλε τὴν αἰσχύνην ὁ Συμεώνης ὡς ἐδόκει, ὑπέστελλεν ἑαυτὸν καὶ τὸν αἰδούμενον ὑπεκρίνετο. Ὡς δ’ οὖν ἡ κυρία τῇ κυούσῃ ἧκε, καθῆστό τε τὰ εἰωθότα, ἡ μὲν ὠδὶς σφοδρότερον καὶ πολλὴν καὶ ἀνύποιστον τὴν ἀλγηδόνα κατεργαζομένη ἐς ἔσχατον κινδύνου τὴν ἄνθρωπον κατήγαγεν, ὁ δὲ τόκος οὐδαμῆ προέκοπτεν. Ἐπειδὴ οὖν τὸν Συμεώνην ἐξεπίτηδες ἀφιγμένον ἱκέτευον προσεύξασθαι, ἀναφανδὸν εἶπε μὴ πρότερον ἀποτέξειν τὸ γύναιον, πρὶν ἂν εἴποι τίς ὁ φύσας τὸ κυοφορούμενον εἴη. Ὅπερ ἐπειδὴ πέπραχε, καὶ τὸν ὄντως ἀνεῖπε πατέρα, εὐθὺ τὸ βρέφος ἐξήλατο, ὑπὸ τῆς ἀληθείας μαιευθέν.

Οὗτός ποτε εἴς τι δωμάτιον ἑταίρας εἰσεληλυθὼς ὤφθη, καὶ τὴν θύραν ἀποκλείσας μόνος πρὸς μόνην ἐχρόνιζεν. Ὡς γοῦν ἀνακλίνας τὴν θύραν ἀπιὼν ᾤχετο, πανταχῆ θεώμενος μή τις αὐτὸν ὁρῴη, ἐπὶ μεῖζον τὰ τῆς ὑπονοίας ἤρθη ὡς τοὺς ἑωρακότας ἀγαγεῖν τὴν ἄνθρωπον, καὶ πυνθάνεσθαι τί τε εἰσιτητὰ τῷ Συμεώνῃ παρ’ αὐτὴν εἴη καὶ ἡ τοσαύτη τοῦ καιροῦ τριβή. Ἡ δὲ διώμνυτο τρίτην ἀπ’ ἐκείνης ἡμέραν μηδενὸς ἀπογεύσασθαι ἀπορίᾳ τῶν ἀναγκαίων ἢ μόνον ὕδατος, τὸν δὲ ὄψα τε κομίσαι καὶ σιτία καὶ οἴνου τι ἄγγος, καὶ τὴν θύραν ἀποκλείσαντα τράπεζαν παραθεῖναι δειπνίσαι τε ταύτην, ἐγκελευσάμενον τῆς θοίνης ἐμπλησθῆναι, ἱκανῶς τῇ ἀφέξει τῆς τροφῆς πιανθεῖσαν· καὶ τὰ λείψανα τῶν ἀποκομισθέντων προέφερεν.

Ἀλλὰ γὰρ καὶ τοῦ κλόνου τοῦ τὴν παραλίαν Φοινίκην κατασείσαντος παρὰ πόδας ὄντος, ἡνίκα ἥ τε Βηρυτίων Βιβλίων τε καὶ Τριπολιτῶν μάλιστα πεπόνθασιν, ῥυτῆρα τῇ χειρὶ μετεωρίζων ἔτυπτε τῶν κιόνων τοὺς πλείους ἀνὰ τὴν ἀγοράν· „Στῆτε,“ βοῶν, „ὀρχήσασθ’ ἔχετε.“ Ἐπεὶ τοίνυν οὐδὲν τἀνδρὸς ἦν πάρεργον, οἱ τούτοις περιτυχόντες τὸν νοῦν ἐτίθεσαν τίνας τῶν κιόνων μὴ τύπτων παρῄει. Οἳ καὶ μετ’ οὐ πολὺ πεπτώκασιν, ἔργον τῶν σεισμῶν γενόμενοι. Πολλὰ δὲ καὶ ἕτερα πέπραχεν, ἃ καὶ πραγματείας ἰδιαζούσης δεῖται.


'34. Now in Emesa there lived Symeon, a man who had shed the robe of vanity to such an extent that to those who did not know he even appeared to be demented, although he was indeed filled with all sacred wisdom and grace. This Symeon lived for the most part by himself, not allowing anyone at all an opportunity to know when and how he propitiated the Divinity, nor when he held fasts or partook of food by himself. But there were times indeed when, while frequenting the main streets, he appeared to have been estranged from normality, and to be completely devoid of sense and intelligence; and sometimes even, on entering a tavern, he would consume the available breads and foods when he was hungry. But if anyone bowed his head to him in reverence, he left the place in rage and haste, fearing that his special virtue might be discovered by the multitude.

And such was Symeon’s public behaviour. But he had certain acquaintances among whom he used to associate without any pretence at all. Now one of his acquaintances had a servant-girl, who had been debauched by someone and become pregnant. When she was compelled by her masters to declare who had done this, she said that Symeon had secretly had intercourse with her and that she was pregnant by him, and would swear on oath that this was truly so should it be necessary indeed to convict him. When Symeon heard this, he concurred, saying that he bore that fallible phenomenon flesh. And when this had become common knowledge and Symeon, so it seemed, incurred great shame, he withdrew himself and pretended to be abashed. And so when the appointed day came for the pregnant woman, and the usual things were in place, the labour produced violent, great and intolerable pain, and brought the woman into extreme danger, but the birth in no way advanced. So when they besought Symeon to pray (he had deliberately come along) he said openly that the woman would not give birth until she said who it was who had sired the pregnancy. When she had done this and revealed the true father, immediately the infant leapt forth, the truth acting as midwife.

This man was once seen to have gone into a certain prostitute’s room, and, after shutting the door, he spent a long time alone with her. So when he opened the door, departed and left, looking everywhere lest anyone should see, suspicion reached such a pitch that the onlookers brought the woman, and enquired what was the reason for Symeon to go in to her and why the great period of time. But she swore that this was the third day since she had tasted anything but water for want of necessities, and that he brought delicacies, bread and a jar of wine; after closing the door he had brought up a table and dined her, bidding her take her fill of the meal until she was sufficiently fattened up after the abstinence from food. And she produced the remains of what had been brought.

But, there is another story that when the tremor which flattened Phoenicia Maritima was at hand, the one in which the cities of Beirut and Byblus and Tripolis suffered particularly, he raised aloft a whip in his hand and struck most of the columns in the forum, shouting: ‘Stand, you can dance.’ Accordingly, since nothing of that man was without purpose, the bystanders made a mental note of which columns he had passed by without striking. Not long after they did indeed fall down, becoming the victim of the earthquakes. There were many other things which he did that require indeed a separate treatment.'

Text: Bidez and Parmentier 2014. Translation: Whitby 2010.

History

Evidence ID

E05074

Saint Name

Symeon the Holy Fool, 6th c : S01636

Saint Name in Source

Συμεώνης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

593

Evidence not after

594

Activity not before

593

Activity not after

594

Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work

Evagrius Scholasticus

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Women Slaves/ servants The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)

Source

Evagrius was born in about 535 in the Syrian city of Epiphania. Educated at Antioch and Constantinople, he pursued a career as a lawyer at Antioch, serving as a legal advisor to Patriarch Gregory (570-592). He wrote the Ecclesiastical History in 593/4, with the express purpose of covering the period following the coverage of the mid 5th century ecclesiastical histories of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret. His narrative starts with Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus (431) and stops with the death of Evagrius’ patron, Gregory of Antioch, in 592. The work offers a balanced mixture of ecclesiastical and secular events in the East Roman Empire, being best informed about Antioch and Syria. Evagrius also published a dossier of original documents from the archive of Patriarch Gregory of Antioch, which has not survived.

Discussion

The account of Evagrius offers the first recording of stories concerning Symeon of Emessa. The saint's full life was written some decades later by Leontius of Neapolis (E06891). In his general introduction concerning the ascetic/monastic movement (1.21), Evagrius regards Symeon's style of asceticism, that of a 'Christ's Fool', as the highest form of ascetic virtue. Symeon seems to be the first holy man of this category to receive a full hagiography, setting the archetype for a form of sanctity which enjoyed prominence and respect in the Eastern Christian tradition. However, as a type of asceticism, it appears to have been known very early, and is attested already in Palladius’ Lausiac History (E03324).

Bibliography

Text and French translation: Bidez, J., and Parmentier, L., Evagre le Scholastique, Histoire ecclésiastique (Sources Chrétiennes 542, 566; Paris, 2011, 2014), with commentary by L. Angliviel de la Beaumelle, and G. Sabbah, and French translation by A.-J.Festugière, B. Grillet, and G. Sabbah. Other translations: Whitby, M., The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius Scholasticus (Translated Texts for Historians 33; Liverpool, 2000). Hübner, A., Evagrius Scholasticus, Historia ecclesiastica = Kirchengeschichte (Fontes Christiani 57; Turnhout, 2007). Carcione, F., Evagrio di Epifania, Storia ecclesiastica (Roma, 1998). Further Reading: Allen, P., Evagrius Scholasticus, the Church Historian (Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, Etudes et Documents 41; Leuven, 1981). Treadgold, W., The Early Byzantine Historians (Basingstoke, 2006), 299-308.

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